Most individuals are familiar with H1N1, although there are some who only know it as swine flu. Are flu vaccinations covered by health insurance today and will they be tomorrow? What constitutes health care reform and its impact on the 250 million insured Americans remains a mystery to most. President Obama has placed it as his top priority before the Congressional August recess, however key components including the $1 trillion + price tag and the means by which health insurance will be made available do not appear to have bipartisan support. Unless there is some drastic realignment, it is unlikely that there will be an overhaul of the health care system this year.
In response to President Obama top priority, the House Democrats introduced HR 3200–America’s Affordable Health Choices Act. This 1,018 page bill, if passed in its current form, will impose dramatic changes to the health care system. Some changes include:
- Establish a Health Insurance Exchange to facilitate comparison shopping for plans, allow small business owners to provide employees choices, including a public health plan option;
- Expand coverage for preventative and wellness services;
- Create affordability credits available to low and middle income individuals and families to make premiums affordable and reduce cost sharing;
- Offer four tiers of benefit packages so that consumers can choose the plan that best meets their health care needs, and provide transparency so complete information is available to consumers;
- Impose a surcharge on individuals who earn more that $280,000 and families who earn more than $350,000.
These are just a few highlights and there are many unanswered questions in the proposed legislation. Many Senators, both Republicans and Democrats, have expressed concerns on a variety of different parts of the bill. It seems as if overhauling the health care system could take Congress more time than the President anticipates.
If there is any sort of health care reform passed this year, individuals will need to understand what it means to them from a financial and benefits standpoint. Much of this dissemination of information will fall to employers. Wealth managers should anticipate potential health care expenses when working on planning for next year and beyond.